Gen-Z knows what’s up with climate change, but this isn’t a battle we can fight alone. So how do we get others to join?
We all know that someone who doesn’t care about climate change. They’ll say things like “Yeah it’s real, but there’s nothing I can do about it since I’m only one person, so why bother?” or “I’ve recycled, what more is there for me to do?”
There will always be people who don’t see climate change as a real problem, so this is very much an intergenerational issue. You may even know some Gen Z-ers or millennials who still aren’t quite up to speed with what’s happening in the realm of the environment or who simply don’t care.
Here’s how to get them to understand why they should care.
A good place to start is by informing yourself.
As a college student, I’m part of a few on-campus/local environmental groups and recently spoke as the keynote speaker at my first Youth Climate Summit. I feel pretty prepared to defend the environment and spew climate change-related facts, but I know I still have a lot to learn.
Some of my favorite ways to learn are from people and experience, but I realize not everyone has the same connections as I do. So, I suggest listening to reputable podcasts and watching documentaries on climate change (there are plenty of podcasts on Spotify) or, if you’re comfortable, reaching out to local environmental advocacy groups to ask how you can learn more or get involved.
Researching and being willing to learn are key. If you don’t know the subject yourself, how on Earth are you going to get other people on board with you?
You’ve also got to be passionate.
Even if paper straws are not your thing or you’re not a die-hard recycler, you’re not going to convince anyone of the dire state our world is in unless you’re passionate about it.
Did you ever participate in debates in middle or high school and were told to be on the side you definitely did not support? Well, think of this issue like that—even if you’re not the biggest fan of the environment, you still have to be passionate about it to win (or, in this case, get more people to see your point of view and understand why it’s important to acknowledge and care about climate change).
But don’t be too passionate! Find a good balance.
Nobody likes when people get all doomsday about the Earth. One of the most important things I learned when being trained on how to make presentations about climate change for students is not to use fear tactics. I haven’t found it very effective when it comes to the environment.
Instead, approach the topic with calm and understanding. Think about how you would want people who disagree with you on a topic to approach you.
You should also understand the depth of the problem.
I’ve been asked, “Why should I care about climate change in the first place?” Before I give you an answer, let me share with you a response from an Environmental Club friend of mine:
“You care, so you do what you can and hopefully other people notice that and become inspired to care, too. Doing something is better than nothing. Change happens when many people do little actions.”
My response isn’t quite so poetic, but it gets the message across: We should care because a UN press release from 2019 states that we have 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. Personally, I don’t want the Earth to be permanently damaged in a decade!
When I tell people something like this, it’s often not enough to move them to action. Instead, I invite them to events like clean ups and building gardens, and I’ve also found it helpful to learn some basic facts, such as:
Global warming is part of climate change, and much of it is caused by greenhouse gases
As a result of climate change, sea levels are rising, causing more coastal floods
Doing simple things like recycling, cleaning up local areas, and eating less meat and more locally grown foods all help battle climate change
I can’t share everything I know in one article, but you can also do research on your own. NASA has some helpful articles on climate change, as do the UN and UNICEF. Once you have facts to share with people in a respectful manner, they’re more likely to listen to you. And if they have a timeframe and understand that this is a global issue, they just might be convinced to act—or at least pass on the information to someone else who they believe should care more about climate change.
But what happens if the person you’re talking to doesn’t believe in climate change?
It’s no secret that there are naysayers out there. My best advice would be to tell them the facts. Science has given us undeniable proof that global warming and climate change are real.
If facts don’t convince them, try a more pathos-centered route. What I mean by that is to use emotion. Ask them what kind of planet they want for future generations. Be sensitive about what you say and approach the subject cautiously, but try to make them understand that this problem goes beyond them and affects both their and others’ futures.
If all else fails, try to get them involved in environmentally-friendly projects like collecting recyclables and getting money back for them. Maybe action will convince them, or they’ll meet someone along the way who can better persuade them.
Last but certainly not least, prioritize yourself and the planet.
The Earth can’t help you if it’s burning down, and you can’t help the Earth if you’re burned out.